Monthly Archives: June 2012

That’s a silly looking car mummy!

is what SC blurted out as we drove to school the other morning.

It just so happened that we were following one of those new Range Rover Evoque.

Full sized range rover, that looks as if an elephant has just sat on the roof and squashed it down flat – doesn’t look like there’s much headroom in there, from the outside.

It was pure white, which didn’t help! Who has a white car these days? And why on earth would you choose white for a 4×4 vehicle designed to go off-road in muddy conditions, and get completely dirty?

Anyway, I digress.

SC looked at the car and said, “that’s a range rover, mummy, but it’s very silly looking!”

I had no answer.

He is so right!

What do you think?

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Filed under Cars, Out of the Mouthes of Babes

Cupcake Trials #4

Well, I made another batch.

Now, when I was young a supermarket used to sell cupcakes, nothing as fancy as todays standards, but just sponge with an icing top. The cakes were very dense in texture, but light at the same time. How?

I had a teeny, tiny, blip when adding the flour and milk. My mind had wandered off and I just weighed out the self-raising flour straight into the mixture, and was about to do the same with the plain flour, when I realised, what I had done.

So the mixture had self-raising flour added and folded in, then some milk, then half the amount of plain flour, some more milk, the remaining flour and then the remaining milk.

This oversight on my part has not, thankfully caused any difference to the cakes. They are still edible ūüėČ

I just can’t get the texture of ones you get at the bakery (and I’m not talking cupcake specialists here). They still just have the consistency of a¬† slightly denser Victoria sponge.

Could it be that I should only use plain (all-purpose) flour and dispense with the self-raising aspect and add a small amount of baking powder, to assist with the rising?

Also I use pure vanilla extract, and I still can’t taste it. Is vanilla essence stronger, even though it’s not as ‘pure’?

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Filed under Cooking

Playing Pontoon…

… with SC.

After lunch today SC went to the drawer to get out a pack of playing cards, and then said “can we play?”

He wanted me to do my shuffling (mis-spent youth) and then do the road trick, where you flip the cards over whilst they are lying in a line.

I didn’t want to be doing that for the next 5 hours, so I just asked if he wanted to play a game that involved adding up to 21.

Now personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with teaching children how to play pontoon, after all it’s probably the best mental maths workout they’re likely to get, and it’s not like we were playing for pocket-money or anything.

Anyway … HE LOVED IT … especially when he manage to beat his nan every single time. To be honest she was cheating slightly, and twisting when she knew she’d go over 21, but all the same his mental maths had a good old workout.

Does anyone have any other good card games to play with children?

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Filed under Children

Chickenpox – what worked for me!

Easter 2011 SC developed the dreaded chickenpox.

We’d escaped, thus far, despite at least 2 outbreaks at nursery.

He’d shown no symptoms at all. We even went to his pre-school gym class in the afternoon.

I took his clothes off and noticed nothing before popping him into the bath …

… and then no more than 10 minutes later there they were, 3 big red spots on his abdomen.

I’d had chickenpox when I was about 8 or 9 and had them very bad, as did my sister. We had spots everywhere you could possibly imagine.

Anyway, SC got the pox.

Now, I’m very much into alternative and natural remedies as much as I can. SC hasn’t had any antibiotics at all, and the only pain relief he has is baby Nurofen¬†– as unlike¬†Calpol doesn’t have colours or sugar in.

So when he’d gone to sleep that night I had a good old surf to find out what to do, naturally for chickenpox.

Remedies ranged from drinking plenty of fluids, water and fruit juice to weird herbal concoctions.

A friend had also recommended something called “Virasoothe”.

So the next morning I set off to the chemist to see what I could get. I bought:

  • Aqueous Cream with Calamine – remember the old calamine lotion, pink and dried white? This didn’t dry out, but did stick to the clothes – wouldn’t recommend it.
  • Allerelief¬†– this is a natural allergy relief medicine (like Piriton but no colours/sugars, etc)

Then I went to have a look at this Virasoothe.

The packet says it “contains OSMO¬†4, a unique patented technology that has been clinically proven to relieve the irritating symptoms of chickenpox by cooling the skin and thereby relieving itching. By protecting the skin’s environment it allows the skin to heal naturally which can help reduce long-term scarring.”

Clearly the first thing I did afterwards was to look at the list of ingredients: Glycerin, PEG-8, caprylyl glycol, sodium polyacrylate, carbomer, sodium hydroxide and purified water.

Now, could somebody please point out which of these ingredients is the magical OSMO-4? And how, please can you be protecting the skin’s environment by using absolutely nothing obviously natural in the ingredients?

So, based on the lack of this magical OSMO-4 ingredient I passed in buying.

I remembered some of the remedies I had read on the internet and trudged along to the health shop.

Purchased, one tube of Aloe Vera Gel and some Vitamin E oil.

SC had a really bad dose of Chickenpox Рsurprisingly though he had very few spots on his arms and legs, despite having them in his mouth, whites of his eyes, eyelids, ears, head, bottom, palms of feet and hands.

So, what worked for me?

Daily Peppermint Tea Bag baths! I read that peppermint oil dropped into the bath water was extremely good to stop itching. In the absence of any essential peppermint oil, but a packet of Twinings Mint Selection Tea Bags I improvised. I made up a large mug of peppermint tea (tea bag in cup and add hot water variety) and then tipped into SC’s bath water. He loved having a green bath, and what’s more it smelled great ūüėČ We varied the bags each night – his favourite was Peppermint and Chamomile ūüėČ

After carefully drying him I applied the aloe vera gel, which soothes, is clear, and doesn’t make a mess.

He did have a couple of spoonfuls of the allergy relief medicine and some pain relief, but not a huge amount.

Thanks to the baths and gel he didn’t scratch once, and once the scabs starting falling off naturally I started applying the Vitamin E oil, which helps repair skin.

So, I thoroughly recommend a peppermint tea-bag bath, aloe vera gel and Vitamin E oil when it comes to chickenpox.

Hopefully SC won’t get it again, but it would be great to hear some of your stories.


Filed under Children

Bloody Hormones

I had lovely skin during my teenage years. Then I bowed to pressure after having my “skin mapped” at a beauty counter in a department store to buy this , that and some other rubbish.

The result?

My skin became a disaster zone!

Not that I was unfortunate enough to have completely terrible skin, but bad enough for me to become very self-conscious.

I immediately stopped using the offending products and tried many different over-the-counter products to clear it up.

I think there comes a point when you have used so many treatments, with so many different chemicals in that your skin becomes irritated just by trying a different product, and it is effectively screaming out to you to STOP!

I even went to the doctor.

After categorically refusing the pill (ever wondered why every single girl apart from you has fabulous skin?) I was given tablets and cream. This seemed to do the trick. I used them for a while and then stopped after taking the tablets during a holiday in the Med which resulted in my skin literally starting to photosynthesise! Totally bizarre!

Heading towards my thirties, I discovered a product that miraculously cleared up my skin quickly.¬† However, I still have problem areas¬†around the jaw line and across my shoulders, which makes me very self-conscious about wearing off-the shoulder, low-cut items of clothing. If I have a nice top I’ll generally throw a t-shirt underneath to cover up.

It isn’t a continuous fight against spots, but outbreaks seem to take ages to go and then I get a¬†week or so¬†before the next round kicks off ūüė¶

When I was pregnant I had the most marvellously glowing skin, it was fabulous.

Once I had SC the same old cycle started all over again.

I know people blame all kinds of things on spots, rich food, chocolate, etc. Mine is definitely hormones. My skin is beautiful for 10 days before a period and then the moment the period us ended – WALLOP!

Bloody hormones! I’m not sure if it’s the effect of too many male or female hormones that causes the problem.

Whatever it is, it’s the bain of my life.

I’ve pretty much tried every solution going – medication, bacials, micro-dermabrasion, but it’s the same old story.

I am currently trying a home remedy that I found whilst surfing the internet, as you do, which involves using surgical alcohol and cleaning your back with that – opening up the pores with hot water (in my case have a shower), then wipe with alcohol again (whilst pores are open) and then closing the pores with cold water.

Weird it may seem, but believe me I’m desperate enough to try anything. I would just like to have clear skin for more than a week at a time, is that too much to ask?

Does anyone else have any weird suggestions for clearing clogged skin? Happy to try out all suggestions and report back!


Filed under General

Top 5 Driving Gripes

I love cars and driving. I am by no means a perfect driver and have plenty of faults. I do try though not to ever do any of my top 5 gripes.

#5 – Braking for no particular reason – this drives me insane. I was driving down the road the other day following someone, and not up their backside, and every 100 yards they would brake. WHY??? There was nothing in front of them, I was a safe, comfortable distance from them, there were no road turnings and we had not just gone through a lake of water. Again, I ask for the love of God why? Testing to make sure your brakes work should not be done on the public highway.

#4 – Pulling out at the last-minute – why do people do this? They are waiting at a junction and can see you approaching (and if they can’t then they really shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car!). Why then do they wait until the very last-minute before pulling out either into your flow of traffic, causing you to brake suddenly as you have to slow the car down to a grinding halt as they pull away at a tortoise’s pace? Or wait until the very last-minute and then pull right across your path, again causing you to brake suddenly and hope that you don’t get hit! Seriously, if you don’t think you can make the gap, stay put.

#3 – Driving Up My Backside –¬†if the speed limit is 30mph, then driving up my bum will not make me go any faster. I got a speeding ticket for doing 38 in what I genuinely thought was a 40 limit. I stick to the speed limit because¬†I don’t want¬† another ticket and also speed limits are there for a reason. And judging by the number of really bad drivers out there it’s a jolly good thing too. To be honest, I think the 70mph on the motorway is a wee bit out-dated now. It was imposed when the first motorway opened in the 1970s, and back then cars rarely went above 70mph. It’s a little bit obsolete now, when a car’s maximum speed is somewhere in the region of 120mph. Not that I’m saying the speed limit should be raised to that, but a little bit higher wouldn’t hurt. Although I also think that motorway driving should also require a test before using a motorway. The outside lanes are for overtaking only, not sitting there at 55mph, totally oblivious to the queue of traffic¬† building up behind you. But I digress, driving up the car in front’s boot is not clever. You are not allowing yourself a safe braking distance. What if the car stops suddenly? What if the car in front has an accident? And also you cannot see any potential hazards either!

#2 –¬† Not using indicators – what do you think we are all psychic or something? I believe the technical term in the Highway Code is “Mirror, Signal and then Manoeuvre”, not just “Brake and Go”! Doesn’t it drive you nuts, especially on the motorway, where clearly we all become psychic as no one appears to signal before just pulling out in front of you at 55mph, when you’re doing 70mph (clearly, obviously wouldn’t be doing any higher officer!) and yes, I am also having a pop at the HGV drivers who sometimes do this too. When anyone is travelling at speed in a tin can, that could crumple upon impact, the last thing we want is some idiot pulling out into our flow of traffic without any thought or regard for anyone else. It’s like pushing into a queue! We are not psychic, so please give us all a bit of warning beforehand.

However, my top gripe of all times – and it’s a big one is those complete imbeciles who don’t switch their lights on in the fog or in driving rain. I just have one question WHY NOT? If you can’t see when you step out of your front door, why on earth would you then step into a tin can and not send warning lights out to all and sundry? Seriously, this one gets me every time. It’s a foggy morning, you wake up to the sound of the local radio station and it’s traffic report, “… and remember it’s foggy out there so put your lights on!” Now if the entire human population had brains, surely we wouldn’t need reminding to put lights on, but even with this reminder the number of brainless idiots still fail to light up and wonder why they cause a 10 car pile-up! I was driving down the motorway on Friday, and it was raining. Not just heavily, but a torrential downpour, couple with high winds. I had lights on, and when visibility was down to less than¬†200 yards I popped the fog lights on as well, just for good measure. There were a lot of lorries about and I had precious cargo – me and SC. I peered out of my rear view mirror and saw a shadow bearing down on my car. It was a 4×4 WITH NO LIGHTS ON. I could barely make out the car, and if it had been coming up on the outer lane and I had to pull out, due to lorry, I would have stood no chance. It would have ploughed into the back of me at 100mph (it was going that fast). I would not have seen it, because the brainless moron had no lights on. So next time it’s foggy, please remember your lights. It’s not rocket science, just common sense. Something I¬† fear the human race is losing!

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Filed under Cars, Top 10

Cupcake Attempt #3 – The Verdict

Great texture, cooked to perfection.

My mother’s reaction to a blind test with Batch¬†2 and Batch 3, was she preferred the taste of Batch 2, but the texture of Batch 3.

The rest of the family loved them.

To date I have been trying to perfect the method of making a perfect set of cupcakes. I have yet to try anything more difficult than a simple vanilla cupcake and don’t even ask about frosting and decorations.

I think that I shall keep to using my soya margarine and brown sugar instead of real butter and white sugar, as the former are slightly more delicate on the old cholesterol levels. Cupcakes made from real butter, etc shall be kept for very special occasions.

The next task on the quest will be to try to get a more vanillary flavour to the cakes. I have used the correct amount and more than stated, but to no avail. The vanilla flavour is not there at all.

I am using vanilla extract and not vanilla flavour, but would the answer be to use vanilla sugar as well as vanilla extract?

Batch 4 this week!

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Filed under Cooking

Rain is …

…very relaxing.

I love lying in bed listening to the rain against the window.

I love lying in bed in the summer, listening to the pattering raindrops against an open window and smelling the fresh scent of the wet earth.

I love being out in the rain, splashing in puddles with SC.

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Filed under life

Cupcake Trials – Attempt #3

A bad workman always blames his tools. So in the spirit of this old saying I will say that the first 2 cupcake batches have not turned out perfectly due to lack of the right equipment.

Actually, it is more correct to say that it was just a bad workman!

The first attempt I used a recipe that I found online. It was a ‘Magnolia Bakery’ recipe. Yes! That famous New York City cupcakery made famous by Sex & the City

Not that the cakes turned out inedible, far from it. Let’s just say that when one copies a recipe off the internet it is wise to copy all of it and not just the ingredients list! I made-up the recipe Using the same method I do for fairy cakes, popped the oven on the same temperature and guessed the length of cooking time.

Looking back, the lessons learned were to read the whole recipe and put the oven at the correct temperature!

For the second batch I found a vanilla cupcake recipe in a party cake book that had been languishing at the back of my wardrobe for ages. Pretty much the same recipe as the ‘Magnolia’ one, but this time I had a method as well. Foolproof? You would think, wouldn’t you?

I followed the recipe to the letter, remembering to alternate between flour and milk at the folding stage. I had the oven at the correct temperature, at least I think I did, and put them in to cook for the correct amount of time. Checking with a skewer before removing them from the oven.

The result?

A much better cupcake consistency, but they were slightly undercooked and still the tops cracked. They did not have that perfect dome top!

Thinking about the first 2 batches, they are a bit like my 2 major relationships. The first a complete disaster and the second seemingly the right mix, but on further inspection another unmitigated disaster!

Third attempt this afternoon, after purchase of a proper tin to cook cupcakes in. I dispensed with using proper butter and White caster sugar and reverted to my normal soya margarine and light brown sugar.

The result?

Well they smell OK, seem to be better cooked. Haven’t tasted them yet, but it looks promising.

Will let you know how they taste!


Filed under Cooking